Archive for the ‘Centrist Wankery’ Tag

Centrist Media Outlet Creates Cute Little Game Which, Shocker of Shockers, Hides a Narrow Corporate Political Agenda Under a Thin Veneer of “Objectivity”   Leave a comment

Well my stars isn’t this the most goddamn perfect thing in the entire world

American Public Media, the institution that produces most of your favorite NPR programming (more on that later), has provided a helpful, colorful, cheeky little game that lets you play out different choices in the federal budget.  It’s called “Budget Hero”, because Guitar Hero came out only a few months ago and totally still has that edgy youth cache so valuable in making things go viral.

There are cartoon skyscrapers whose height reflects the commitment of the federal budget to different groups of programs (defense, housing, infrastructure, etc.) You play the game by selecting different options that affect the budget (like “simplifying the tax code”, “increasing foreign aid”, and my favorite, “increasing DARPA spending”).  At any point you can see during what year your choices make the budget “go bust” in the future.

Harmless, right?  There’s a cartoon beaker on the “science and nature” skyscraper! Adorable.  And the goal of the game couldn’t be more benign:

[The game] seeks to provide a values- and fiscal-based lens for citizens to examine policy debates during this election year.  Partisan messages tend to cloud the real issues at play during campaigns, and most candidates are loath to attach detailed financial impacts to solutions which make up their platform.  Budget Hero provides an interactive experience involving policy options that have been extensively researched and vetted with non-partisan government and think tank experts to enable players to objectively evaluate candidates.

Actually playing the game, though, reveals a strict set of political priorities limiting a player’s choices and hiding a specific agenda under the guise of “objective”, “non-partisan” analysis.  Which makes it the perfect illustration of the general dynamics going on in centrist media.

Let’s take a look: Read the rest of this entry »

Posted September 20, 2012 by Ben in Uncategorized

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You Wake Up on a Pile of Money You Earned Unethically   Leave a comment

You are, unfortunately, a centrist pundit.

You have your job because you provide a veneer of objectivity on the corporate agenda of the person that signs your checks.  It is a relaxing life, all told: no accountability, a base salary a few multiples of the median that’s supplemented by lucrative speaking fees, regular invitations to pseudo-intellectual wanking conferences in scenic spots like Aspen.  A charmed existence by any measure.

But everything’s not all peaches and cream.  Occasionally there’s a situation that demands comment, and whose facts on the ground are so skewed against the corporate vision of your employer that it takes remarkable feats of hackery to obscure them.

And it takes a toll.  When something like the Chicago Teachers Union strike comes along, there will be ulcers and sleepless nights.  “I have to comment on this but my God what am I going to say.  The only pay issue is the mayor requiring 20% more work for only 2% more pay, so I can’t hammer them for being greedy; the teachers are mainly striking over an evaluation system that would place 40% of the weight on high-stakes testing and the rest on layers of arbitrary judgment for which there will be no training and no oversight.  And the rest is more funding for smaller class size, for air conditioners and asbestos removal.   I can’t really defend a testing regime that is largely unproven, and with what evidence there is pointing to wild arbitrary swings in scores; I can’t defend giving administrators tremendous authority with arbitrary guidelines and no oversight; I can’t be pro-asbestos – yet – so what am I going to do?”

This is when you earn your paycheck.  This is when your skills are most needed. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted September 18, 2012 by Ben in Uncategorized

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